सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त, भोर और साँझ 

प्रकृति की दो प्रक्रियाएँ हमेशा से ही आकर्षित करती रही हैं। वो हैं - सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त। भोर की वेला का आकर्षण होता है सूर्योदय और वैसे ही साँझ वेला का मुख्य आकर्षण सूर्यास्त होता है। मुझे अच्छी तरह से याद है कि बचपन में स्कूल की दीवारों पर लिखी हुई सूक्तियों में एक यह भी हुआ करती थी कि "सूर्य न तो अस्त होता है और न उदय, हम ही जागकर सो जाते हैं।" अब बाल मन ने कहावत पढ़ी और अनदेखा कर दिया, हर दिन। उस समय इस कहावत के खगोलीय और दार्शनिक महत्व के बारे में ज्यादा पता न था। और अब हालत ये है कि सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त को देखते ही मेरे अंदर का दार्शनिक जाग उठता है। हालाँकि दिनचर्या ऐसी है कि इनको देखना कम ही हो पाता है। और ऐसा भी नहीं है कि सूर्योदय को देखकर सबके मन में सिर्फ दार्शनिक विचार ही आते हैं। लेखक जरॉड किंट्ज़ ने तो सूर्य के चाल-चलन की ही शिकायत कर दी। कारण भी ये कि भोर में सूर्य रेंगते हुए खिड़कियों पर चढ़ आता हैं और वहां से झांकता है। लेकिन घबराइये नहीं। सूर्य के चरित्र-हनन का मेरा कोई इरादा नहीं है। 

उखीमठ, उत्तराखंड में गढ़वाल मंडल विकास निगम के गेस्ट हाउस की एक भोर आज तक नहीं भूलती है। वैसे तो हिमालय में सूर्योदय के उत्तम दृश्य देखने के लिए कुछ जगहें ही उपयुक्त कही जा सकती हैं और वो इसलिए क्यूंकि ज्यादातर पहाड़ी बस्तियां पर्वतों से घिरी होती हैं। जब तक सूर्य पहाड़ों के ऊपर आता है, तब तक दिन काफी चढ़ चुका होता है और सूर्य अपना नवजातपन खो चुका होता है। मुझे याद है कि एक बार हृषिकेश में सूर्योदय देखने के लिए हमने रात्रि-जागरण किया था लेकिन सुबह सूर्य दिखने तक भोर का नामोनिशान गायब हो चुका था। खैर उखीमठ ने हमें निराश नहीं किया। वहां से हिमाच्छादित पहाड़ों की छटा बस देखते ही बनती थी। सामने गुप्तकाशी और बीच में घाटी में बह रही मन्दाकिनी नदी की कर्णप्रिय आवाज और फिर बादलों से अठखेलियां करता हुआ सूरज। जनवरी के महीने में सूर्य की गुनगुनी किरणें किसी वरदान से कम तो नहीं लग रही थीं। और सूर्य की लालिमा से बादल और बर्फ से ढके पहाड़ भी लाल लग रहे थे। 

हृषिकेश में सूर्योदय देखने का सौभाग्य हमें प्राप्त नहीं हुआ लेकिन सूर्यास्त जरूर देखा यहाँ पर। त्रिवेणी घाट से हमने सूर्य को नीचे मैदानों की तरफ जाते देखा। उस जगह से गंगा नदी भी एक मोड़ लेकर आँखों से ओझल हुई जा रही थी और सूर्य भी अस्त हो रहा था। ऐसा लग रहा था कि उस जगह तक प्रकृति की सत्ता है और उसके बाद मनुष्य की। मसूरी की साँझ भी कम शानदार नहीं कही जा सकती। पहाड़ों से रहित एक साँझ में हमने पूरा सूर्यास्त देखा। सूर्य को धीरे धीरे लाल होते देखा और फिर पूरा क्षितिज लाल था, पहाड़ों का बस धुंधला सा खाका देखा जा सकता था। कुछ देर बाद सूर्य जब और अस्ताचल की ओर बढ़ चला तब आसमान में एक रेखा साफ़ देखी जा सकती थी जिसके नीचे अंधकार था और जिसके ऊपर लाल रौशनी जगमगा रही थी। जब सूर्य दिखना बंद हो गया तब लाल आकाश के नीचे देहरादून शहर में जलते हुए प्रकाश बिम्ब साँझ की शोभा बढ़ा रहे थे। 

कभी कभी सोचता हूँ कि मनुष्य को सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त क्यों अच्छा लगता है। सूर्योदय को अच्छा लगने के पीछे यह कारण हो सकता है कि मनुष्य की इस धारणा की पुष्टि होती है कि अंधकार नित्य नहीं रहेगा। हमारी संस्कृति में अंधकार को बुराई और प्रकाश को अच्छाई का प्रतीक माना गया है। प्रतिदिन सूर्योदय उस बुराई पर अच्छाई की विजय का प्रतीक है। और सहज ही समझा जा सकता है कि पुराने समय में लोग सूर्योदय की इतनी बेसब्री से प्रतीक्षा क्यों करते होंगे। और रही बात सूर्यास्त की तो उसको भी अच्छाई-बुराई से जोड़ते हुए यह कहा जा सकता है कि लोगों को पता है कि यह जो अँधेरा सूर्यास्त ला रहा है वो क्षणिक है, कल फिर सूर्योदय होगा और अंधकार पराजित होगा। इसलिए वो उत्साह से भोर का इंतज़ार करते हैं। 

कभी यह नहीं सोचा था कि सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त में ज्यादा कौन अच्छा लगता है। मुझसे यह प्रश्न हिंदी साहित्य जगत के नवांकुरों में से एक ने पूछा था। मैंने थोड़ा सोचा इस बारे में, लेकिन बुद्धिजीवियों को संतुष्ट कर पाने वाला जवाब नहीं मिला। मैंने बताया कि सूर्यास्त ज्यादा अच्छा लगता है क्यूंकि वो आँखों को ज्यादा सुखदायी होता है। तब उस नवांकुर ने बताया , "किसी चीज की सुंदरता का एहसास तब ज्यादा होता है जब वह हमसे दूर जा रही हो, बजाय इसके कि जब वह चीज हमारे पास आई हो और काफी दिन तक साथ रहे। और जब हम किसी चीज को जाते हुए देखते हैं तो हम उसे देखने के लिए रुकते हैं। उससे आत्मीयता का एहसास होता है। उगते हुए सूरज की वैसे तो कुछ लोग पूजा भी करते हैं लेकिन उसे उगते हुए देखने के लिए कोई रुकता नहीं है जैसे कि लोग अस्त होते हुए सूरज को देखने के लिए रुकते हैं।" सचमुच इस प्रश्न का इससे खूबसूरत दार्शनिक जवाब संभव नहीं था।

मसूरी की एक साँझ
मसूरी की एक साँझ
(तस्वीर धर्मेन्द्र कुमार  के सौजन्य से )


From Barot we went to Kasol, another small town of Himachal Pradesh situated in parvati valley. From Ghatasani we boarded a bus to Bhuntar via Mandi. We came through a tunnel in Aut little before Bhuntar. These engineering marvels always fascinate me. Bhuntar has a small airport with few flights to Chandigarh and Delhi, mostly catering to the tourists arriving for Kullu and Manali. Kullu is just 5 km away from Bhuntar. I bought at last the traditional Kullu topi in Bhuntar to keep it as a souvenir of this trip. In Bhuntar, Parvati river meets Beas river and they continue their ]journey as Beas river. One could easily distinguish two rivers at their ‘Sangam’, one was rich in silt and other was cleaner and greener. 
Sangam of Parvati and Beas rivers
Sangam of Parvati and Beas rivers

We boarded a bus from Bhuntar to Manikaran. Manikaran is 34 km away from Bhuntar. Kasol is 3 km before Manikaran. Manikaran is a famous pilgrimage destination and we saw many pilgrims flocking to manikaran having orange and yellow flags on their vehicles. manikaran has a famous Gurudwara, Manikaran Sahib, a temple and a hot water spring. 
Parvati river in Kasol
Parvati river in Kasol

The journey from Bhuntar to Kasol was the most pleasant one in our journey so far. We were in bus with mighty parvati river flowing in valley, lightly raining, cool air blowing and with mind lost somewhere. Not to forget the dangerous roads. On our way to Kasol we saw baskets moving on wires from one mountain to another on either side the valley. This motorised apparatus was installed to transport materials to inaccessible villages. 
Road to Manikaran
Road to Manikaran 

We reached kasol in evening and after searching for hotel rooms, we settled for one cottage on a hill slope, little secluded from the main market of Kasol. We then went near Parvati river. The roar of running water was splendid and so were the rapids formed by rocks. On one side was Parvati river and on the other side was a jungle of chir trees. It was a beautiful setting. From Kasol we could see snow capped peaks in distance shining because of reflection of red sun. 
Snow capped mountains towards Manikaran
Snow capped mountains towards Manikaran

We continued our journey along the banks of Parvati river on the road to Manikaran. There we came across a small bridge on Parvati river meant for a small village on the other side. While crossing this bridge, it started vibrating which frightened us, more so in the backdrop of the river colliding with rocks and increasing turbulence. 
in Kasol
in Kasol

It was already dark and we started to return towards market area of Kasol. This small village was particularly famous among Israeli tourists. We saw many of them. In fact one of the shopkeepers told us they have been living here for months and are hundreds in number. Many of them are living in villages on the outskirts of Kasol. The importance of Israeli tourists can be understood by many signboards which were in hebrew. One of the signboards described Kasol as Chabad of Israel. Even restaurants served many israeli dishes. 


I have visited many towns and cities in hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, but there was a desire within to travel to a Himalayan village, an isolated place life is not so fast-paced and where I can sit and relax surrounded by hills. One of my friends had been to Barot and when he posted pictures of this small village, I was impressed by them. I wanted to visit this village then, but this place is difficult to reach in winters due to snowfall. We got to know from the villagers in Barot that snowfall continued till early may in Barot. Even this was a spontaneous plan made a day before actual travel. After considering few places, we zeroed in on Barot.
Way to Barot
Way to Barot

There are two popular routes to reach Barot. First is by bus via Mandi. Second is by bus via Joginder Nagar. Even while coming via railways from Pathankot station, one has to reach Joginder Nagar. From Mandi or Joginder Nagar, buses are available at regular intervals. On the Mandi-Joginder Nagar highway, there is a small diversion at Ghatasani for Barot. Barot is around 25 km from Ghatasani. Roads till Ghatasani were in a good condition, but after Ghatasani we saw typical Himalayan Roads : narrow, curvy, single lane although not one way. We crossed Uhl river near Tikkan village. It took us little less than two hours to reach Barot from Joginder Nagar. 

After reaching Barot, we got to know to our surprise that most of the good places to stay were already booked. We had in our mind a small village which would not be crowded by visitors and which was yet to become a popular tourist destination. We got a room at one River View home stay. In Barot there are many homestays, rooms that people spare from their daily usage during tourist season. Ours was in Multhan, a small village situated on the other side of the river but in district Kangra. 
Multhan village near Barot
Multhan village near Barot

When we reached Barot, the weather was sunny and it was not particularly pleasant. But after couple of hours clouds came and cool winds started blowing. It was nice to roam around in such a weather. First place that we went to was Haulage Trolley. This trolley was built during British reign and was used to transport instruments and materials for building Shanan Dam and Reservoir. Currently it is operated by Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). This trolley was used for transportation till 1970s when Barot was still not connected by a road. 
Haulage Trolley
Haulage Trolley

When we looked from the start of trolley tracks to it going high and high to the peak, the first thing that came to my mind was ‘Stairway to Heaven’ a famous song by Led Zeppelin, although in this case it was ‘Railway to Heaven’. These tracks invited a visit and we accepted happily. Starting of the tracks was not that steep and we had no problem but then it became very steep, so steep that we had to use all our limbs to reach beyond first of such steep parts. We stopped there to take rest. Then we met a resident of nearby village returning from school. Travelling 5 km to and fro for schooling was a tough task when it involved climbing hills also. While coming to Barot, we also saw very young children going to school, standing in a jam-packed bus, something we experienced while going to Kasauli as well. He told us that there were three such steep parts in trolley tracks and with this speed it would already be dark by the time we would return. Then started rains. We abandoned our plans to go to the other side of the hills with heavy heart as we had seen in pictures that the other side of the hill provided breathtaking views. 
River run-off in Barot
River run-off in Barot

We also little further than Haulage Trolley and went in the valley to be with river Uhl. The clean water moving with speed and small falls made that place a beautiful one. Next on our list was the Shanan Hydel Power Project. this hydel plant was built on Uhl river in 1932 during British Raj. It was the first Megawatt capacity hydro power plant in India. There were two diversions for stream which were used to send water to Shanan Power house situated few kilometers downstream. There was also a water jet like structure sending water upwards, that was the attraction of the evening for us. 
With Uhl river in Barot
With Uhl river in Barot

We also went to the Trout Fishing area. One has to take prior license for fishing. There we saw colorful fishes of different sizes. During night we wandered on the empty roads of Barot and Multhan. Times like this ideal setting for our bakaiti sessions. Next day we got up late in the morning and missed first bus from Barot to Ghatasani. Next bus was after two hours. We went again to the Dam and in the mean time also tried hands on sling-shot. Then the bus came and we left for our next destination, Kasol


तीरे-ए-नज़र नीम कश, वफात बाक़ी
कोई तो हाल खबर पूछो, हयात बाक़ी

हर क़त्ल पर बदनाम हुआ मेरा कातिल
अभी इसबात बाक़ी तहक़ीकात बाक़ी

ढह गई मेरे दिल की दीवार दो बातों से 
अभी उनके अश्कों की बरसात बाक़ी

औंधे आसमान के नीचे मेरे साथ बैठो
तारों के सफ़र के साझी बनें, रात बाक़ी

आओ कुछ अफवाहें फैलाएं हवाओं में 
आज खबरों में कोई बड़ी वारदात बाक़ी

आँखों आँखों में जीने मरने के वादे हुए
वो कहते हैं कि अभी मुलाक़ात बाक़ी

चर्चे-किस्से चले, रुसवाइयाँ हुईं फिर भी 
रह गई यायावर के दिल की बात बाक़ी 


नीम कश - half-drawn; वफात - death; हयात - life; इसबात - proof; 


Delhi is aptly called the city of cities. Purana Qila is the oldest fort in Delhi and some recognise it as the first city of Delhi, once inhabited by emperors like Humayun, Sher Shah Suri and Hemu Vikramaditya. This place is also believed by many to be the site of Indraprastha, ancient town mentioned in epics. Sher Shah rebuilt the fort at the same place but died before the construction was complete and it was completed later by his son Islam Shah or Humayun. When this fort was built it was situated on the banks of river Yamuna, but since then the course of river has changed. 

There are three entrances to the Purana Qila. The main entrance known as Bada Darwaza was one from where we entered. It was a gate having all the characteristics of the fortified structures. There were towers on the second floor on the either side of the gate. At that time, soldiers must have manned the gate from these towers. There were two other entrances : Talaqi Darwaza or forbidden gate and Humayun Darwaza, possibly known as such because it may have been completed by Humayun. Humayun Darwaza is visible from nearby Delhi zoo. Talaqi gate is now closed for all purposes. One has to go around the lake to see the talaqi Darwaza. The lake is outside the main walls of Purana Qila on its western side. It was a common practice during those times to have a lake around the outer walls to reinforce the security of forts as was the case with Tughlaqabad Fort, although the lake has dried since then. Today, boating facility is present in these lakes. 

Bada Darwaza, main entrance to Purana Qila
Bada Darwaza, main entrance to Purana Qila


When entered inside the fort premises, we saw sprawling lawns with buildings to been seen sparingly. We saw the double storied structure of outer walls on western side and that of the main gate, Bada Darwaza. Whatevers remains are standing in Purana Qila are in good condition preserved by Archaeological Survey of India. We then went towards the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque. It was built by Sher Shah. One of the first buildings in the region to use pointed arches, this mosque is in good condition today. In its courtyards there was even water tank with a fountain. The second storey has balconies accessible via stairs which was probably built for female courtiers to pray. 

Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque in Purana Qila, Delhi
Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque in Purana Qila


We then saw some excavations done on few sites and the material excavated was displayed there. Such excavations by ASI have showed the inhabitation of this place since ancient times. Then there was an octagonal building known as the Sher Mandal. It was a double storied structure planned as an observatory and personal library of the emperor. Today entry to the Sher Mandal is prohibited. This was also the place where Humayun fell from stairs of the second storey to his death while hurrying for evening prayers after stargazing. 

Sher Mandal in Purana Qila, Delhi
Sher Mandal in Purana Qila.

Then we also saw Hammam, a royal bath house. A plaque read there, “The remains of terracotta pipes and a ribbed water chute can still be seen around a room measuring some 3.2 metres square. Such bath house, with provision for hot and cold water and even steam rooms were an important part of Mughal culture. In the years after the abandonment of the fort as a capital of the empire, this structure was forgotten and built over. It was revealed when the clearance of the village Indraprat and conservation of the site was undertaken by the ASI in 1913-14.”

The Purana Qila also has daily light and sound show on the seven cities of Delhi.Unfortunately we could not see that as the entire was show was booked by some school for exhibition for children. The show takes place near Humayun Darwaza from inside. The boundaries of the Purana Qila on eastern side were high and steep. Purana Qila was considered unlucky for the rulers as most of them had short reigns and that is why later emperors shifted there capital to other cities in Delhi. We did some sunset photography in the lawns and then left as it was getting closed for the day. 

Also see Purana Qila in Pictures